Title: Mind Your Head: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Suicidal Queer Christian Missionary Kid
Author Name & Publisher: Jordan Cosmo (Lulu Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 17, 2015 – 400 pgs
What happens when a homosexual is brought up in a homophobic religion?
In Mind Your Head, the author shares her unforgettable transformation from Jordan Callow, a suicidal anorexic, self-mutilating drug addict, to Jordan Cosmo, a healthy, enlightened, and empowered queer feminist.
Born into the family of conservative Christian missionary parents, Jordan was raised to believe that she must obey God above all else, and that homosexuality had no place in His kingdom.
But Jordan knew she was queer. She didn’t feel like a normal girl on the inside. And she didn’t look like a normal girl on the outside. Despite compulsively praying that God would correct her, she continued to look like a boy and think like a lesbian.
Honest, thought-provoking, and revolutionary, this story will change the way we relate to our queer youth, and more specifically, whether or not we continue to allow religious entities to brainwash them towards self-destruction.
I tend to read the memoirs of my heroes. The stories of people who have done great things. It was a change to read the memoir of a very ordinary woman. Jordan Cosmo’s experiences will resonate with anyone who grew up inside the world of Fundamentalist Christianity.
In many ways, Cosmo’s recollection are both uncomfortably familiar and unsettlingly mundane. The lives of Christian kids in the 90s were intensely structured and involved repetitive routines. The author recollects these details well, but she needs a good editor to select highlights and prevent the story from becoming tedious.
Cosmo avoids sensationalising her experiences. She doesn’t vilainize her repressive family, finding victims where others might find bullies. The result is that much of this story is a slow, year by year recount of a vaguely unremarkable life.
I say unremarkable because Cosmo’s story isn’t any different than those of the many bloggers chronicling their journey from fundamentalism. I remember crying when I first read Jonny Scaramanga’s blog some years ago, but there is now a large and growing community of adults writing about recovery from the same sort of spiritual abuse Cosmo recounts in her memoirs. I struggled to find Cosmo’s unique contribution to a busy and complicated dialogue.
At one point, a girlfriend challenges Cosmo, asking her why she is so miserable when other people survive much worse with more cheer. I couldn’t help but agree. Cosmo emerges as a dreary, miserable character. Her move away from Christianity is grueling and angst-filled. I know from a sibling’s experience that fundamentalism is even more awful for LGBTQ kids, but it feels like Cosmo spends much of her early life (and much of the story) choosing to cloak herself in misery.
I really fell out with Cosmo when it took a psychedelic trip induced injury for her to finally move away from her Christian past. Most of us ran away as soon as we could and didn’t look back. We didn’t need shrooms, just common sense. I empathise with the mental health problems faced by so many of the Focus on the Family generation as adults – but I know it isn’t just LGBT survivors who suffer with the guilt and shame issues Cosmo highlights. We were all screwed up and I’m not sure that wallowing in difficult memories is the most helpful way to move on.
I found Cosmo’s early story most interesting. Chilling references to ACE style education, the Christian music industry and entrenched misogyny were real and difficult to read as a fellow survivor of fundamentalism. I didn’t always find myself engaged by Cosmo’s narrative and I didn’t always like Cosmo’s narrative voice. Adults in their thirties who remember Petra and Michael W Smith, Sparks and Pathfinder girls, Promise Keepers, The Head of the Household and Purity rings will find this a familiar, if disturbing read.